|A YEAR WITHOUT THE SOUTHERN SUN
Potsdamer str. B1 B, 10785 Berlin
|22 February – 4 April 2020|
Participating artists: Agnes Denes, Gordon Matta-Clark, Kévin Blinderman, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Neda Saeedi, Rafael Domenech, Trevor Paglen, Yalda Afsah
The future of humanity is in question. In response to this unprecedented crisis, “A Year Without the Southern Sun” has gathered 9 artists to investigate the relationship between decolonization and current climate change. At the core of the exhibition is the ambivalence that surrounds the Anthropocene, that is, the confrontation of nature and human-made creations, which can be both violent and beautiful.
The exhibition’s title is inspired by the name given to 1816, known as the Year Without a Summer, after a catastrophic eruption in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) caused a volcanic winter across the globe. The dust and fallout created atmospheric opacity that blocked out the sun for several months, leading to agricultural disasters and famine. This volcanic winter produced a
“butterfly effect” that led to the creation of several masterpieces in art and literature, including extraordinary sunsets in J. M. W. Turner’s paintings and the writings of Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. However, art history has largely neglected artworks made in the Global South during this year.
Hence, “A Year Without the Southern Sun” brings together iconic works of North American post-war art that resonate with a diversity of contemporary artists from around the world. The works are subtle and enigmatic propositions about a human-made world that often seems beyond our control. Many of the artists, such as Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Neda Saeedi, Rafael Domenech, look at their family histories and the relationship to colonization and neo-colonization. While artists such as Trevor Paglen and Kévin Blinderman seek to use the very technologies of the state and advanced industrial capitalism to unveil the current contradictions that surround us.
Among the emblematic actions that responded to social crisis stands Wheatfield: A Confrontation (1982) by Agnes Denes, who currently has a retrospective at The Shed in New York. It is presented through four photographic documents taken during the process of planting. Denes harvested a wheatfield in Lower Manhattan’s landfill in Battery Park in 1982, a year after Ronald Regan became the U.S. president. The wheatfield was consciously positioned a block from Wall Street, at the foot of the World Trade Center and across the Statue of Liberty—an early ecofeminist action that poignantly relates immigration, world hunger and waste with economic mismanagement and international trade.